England’s senior side may have endured a torrid year on and off the field, but the Lions’ performance against Sri Lanka ‘A’ has given them plenty of hope for the future.
Alex Hales hit 101 off just 105 balls to help his side to a 51-run victory. The Notts batsman – who spent time on loan at Worcestershire earlier this season – once again cemented his place in the ODI squad, and reminded England coach Peter Moores of his Test credentials.
A Test of Hales’ credentials
With Sam Robson under increasing pressure following a series of poor performances against India, Gary Ballance could be moved higher up the order to accommodate Hales. In fact, it was with the Lions that Robson first shot to the ECB’s attention.
Essex’s Ravi Bopara also staked his claim for a comeback. Despite a promising start to his Test career (he is one of a select few to have hit three centuries in his first six matches), Bopara appeared to have slipped out of the fold under former boss Andy Flower.
However, as Lions coach, Flower will be delighted with his form, and his successor, Moores, seems yet to finalise his first XI. That suggests there is still time for some fringe players to force their way into the reckoning. Bopara also weighed in with two wickets, as did Boyd Rankin and Harry Gurney.
Jason Roy also impressed for the Lions, his quick-fire half century including an over in which he hit five sixes.
Eyes on Flower
There is something of an unusual feel about this Lions squad, with so many of its members having already graced the Test side. Equally bizarre is the fact that so much attention is being paid to Flower, who has something of a point to prove after steering England to an Ashes whitewash Down Under.
Unlike Moores, Flower’s stint in charge was ended unequivocally, and there will be no hope of a return.
Eoin Morgan, who has captained the Lions in the past, did not make this squad, but scored a century for Middlesex as they beat Surrey by six wickets in the Royal London One-Day Cup. Another contender for England, Morgan was oddly linked with the Test captaincy despite not having featured for the side in over a year.
Nonetheless, the peripheral players of English cricket are coming to form at a crucial time, and that can only be a positive as the ODI series with India draws near.